Luke 13:22-30 We are inundated—and too often influenced-- by the religious voices around us: TV preachers, friends and family members, and media personalities. Let there be no doubt, by their words they intend to teach us--to shape our thinking-- on the eternally important questions of: who is God and how can I know him and have a life with him.
But God did not leave us to the opinions of men when it comes to knowing the answers to these questions. Instead, he sent his Son to teach us the truth. The Bible says:
Jesus went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem.
This is what Jesus came to do: to teach us the truth about God and our life with him by leading us to Jerusalem—to the place of the cross and the empty tomb where our questions about life with God, and forgiveness, and eternal life are answered in Christ’s death and resurrection.
God does not want a single person here be confused by the voices of the world that would mislead us. He doesn’t want us to be deceived by our own flesh. God wants everyone to know the answers these questions. That is why he sent us Son to teach us the truth about how to get to heaven. The bible says that: Someone said to Jesus, "Lord, will those who are saved be few?"
Jesus really never does answer this person’s question (about how many will be saved) because that is Jesus’ business, not ours--and the way that Lord dealt with this question is a helpful reminder that the Lord teaches us what he wants us to know—not necessarily everything that we want to know.
Instead, he answers the question in such a way that WE CAN BE SAVED by knowing the answer he does give. That is always his priority: not to deal with our speculation --but to provide for our salvation. He answers the salvation question this way: "Strive to enter through the narrow door.
The Lord pictures heaven as a huge house with just one entrance: a narrow door that is Jesus Christ! He is not only the teacher sent by God to instruct us concerning salvation—he IS our salvation—he is the narrow door to heaven.
In stark contrast to all of those who would have us believe that there are many paths to God, the Father’s heaven-sent teacher tells us that there is just one way: Jesus.
He alone has atoned for the sins of the world by his death on the cross. He alone has risen from the dead destroying the power of the grave. He alone has fulfilled all righteousness by his holy life—he alone is the one mediator between God and man-- and no one—no one—will come to the Father and enter into heaven except by him.
Jesus is the narrow door to heaven—but we are the ones who have to enter in. How do we enter through that narrow door? It is by faith. Jesus said: “this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life.”
Jesus says that we are to STRIVE to do this. We strive for all kinds of things in life—money and success and recognition and good marks--but those things will not save us-- and to have them all and not have Christ is to have less than nothing. STRIVE to enter through the narrow door because many will fail. Jesus says:
For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, open to us,' then he will answer you, 'I do not know where you come from.'
Why will so many fail to enter by the narrow door and be saved? It is not because they do not know it is there (they do!). It is not because they have not heard how they are to enter it (they have!). It is because they will have waited too long.
For all who are living and breathing on the earth at this moment—there is a remarkable day of grace that God has given to us today—a day when the door to heaven stands wide open to all who will enter in by faith in Jesus. But Jesus also warns us that there will come a day when the door will be closed—never to be opened again.
The Lord’s words call to mind the days of Noah when there was ample opportunity for everyone who heard the preaching of Noah to take it to heart—repent of their sins—trust in God’s promised deliverance-- and enter in through door of the ark of salvation. Plenty of time right up until there was no more time-- and door to the ark was closed and the judgment of Almighty God began to fall.
In the same way today, Jesus points the world to the open, narrow door of eternal life and invites all people to come inside-- but he also warns us that the door will one day close—after which no one will be able to enter. Jesus warns us:
Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.'
The people who saw Jesus’ miracles—the people who heard his teaching—the people who were fed by him-- numbered in the tens of thousands. But not all of them believed in him and not all would be saved simply because they were familiar with him. Then and now: Familiarity is not enough—FAITH is what’s needed.
There are all kinds of people who are familiar with the story of Jesus—but that is not enough. There are all kinds of people who are familiar with the things of the church--but that is not enough. There are all kinds of people who have family members who are Christians-- but that is not enough. YOU must believe in Jesus Christ.
It is necessary to know Christ as your Lord and Savior to be known by him on the Last Day. It is necessary to confess his saving name if he is to confess your name before his Father in heaven. On that day, Jesus will say to those who have not believed in him:
“…I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!'
Jesus is not saying that on the Last Day that he will somehow lack the omniscience to know those who have rejected him. Just the opposite is true—he knows them better than they could ever know themselves—every ugly, sinful detail.
The kind of knowledge that Jesus is talking about is the intimate knowledge that exists between a husband and wife in a love relationship. In effect Jesus says to all those who have not entered by the narrow door: “we’ve never had a relationship and now it is too late to have a life with me because you are evil and will remain so forever”.
We tend to think of people being evil on the basis of what they do or don’t do—and certainly there is some truth in that. But the measure of Jesus’ judgment on the last day is whether or not we have entered through the narrow door by faith in him-- or rejected him and remained outside. That is the evil that damns!
It’s important for us to remember—that no matter who “good’ we think we are—no matter how “good” we think someone else might be—the judgment of Christ is that apart from faith in him-- individuals are evil and can never live with him in heaven and instead are sent by him to hell. Jesus says that:
In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out.
Jesus plainly taught that hell is real- and it is terrible- and it is eternal—and utterly unnecessary because there is a way of salvation. The prophets and patriarchs all knew that there was one way of salvation which is the narrow door of faith in God’s Messiah—a door that is open wide to all people. Jesus says:
People will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last."
God wants everyone to have a place at his table. For the Jews this was a shock. They thought that simply by being Jews they would be saved—but they were wrong. Yes—they had every advantage: they had the temple and the Torah and circumcision and sacrifice—but apart from faith in Christ these advantages would not save them.
Others of that day had none of these things—no natural advantage owing to their birth among Jews—they were Gentiles from all over the world-- but they believed in Jesus when he promised that through faith in him they would be saved—and they took their place in the kingdom of God. The first, last—and some of the last, first.
The same thing is still true today. There are people born into Christian families and raised in the Church—people who have every advantage—and yet they reject Christ. Others have no such advantage—they were born to unbelievers and were brought up that way—and yet by God’s grace they heard Christ preached and believed in him and entered through the narrow door to eternal life. The first, last—and some of the last, first.
To those who have the advantage of having grown up in the church, Jesus says: use it! Put your faith in me and be saved. To those who had no such advantage Jesus says the same: today is the day of grace that God has provided for you to enter through the narrow door and take your place in the Lamb’s great eternal feast. May God grant us all the faith to enter into eternal life by the narrow door of Christ! Amen.